From left to right: Matrix (Evaluative) Metering, Center weighted, Spot meter.
Most modern SLRs give the photographer three metering choices. Which meter you use can make a big difference in way pictures come out.
Matrix metering is the newest kind of meter. In this mode, the camera uses the entire frame to choose photo settings. The camera compares what it “sees” to an internal database of stock settings that have been programed at the factory. Matrix metering is designed to expose as much of the frame as possible. This meter is a good all around setting to use when you’re not looking for a specific effect. Great for fast, loose shooting situations.
Center Weighted Metering has been around for a long time. This was the first attempt by camera manufacturers to put some intelligence into their metering systems. The camera weights the center of the frame 80%, and the rest of the frame 20% when calculating picture settings.
Spot Meters ignore the entire frame, and only evaluate the spot that you’re focusing on. This is a good meter to use when you want to photograph a dark subject in a bright environment. It’s a great way to pick one spot of light out of the frame and meter it. I use the spot meter a lot because it gives me the most control over exposure without having to change to manual settings.
Most modern cameras let you move the center point to different parts of the frame. This lets you emphasize different parts of the picture. Those little squares in your viewfinder not only move the focus point, they also move the meter. In all three of these pictures, I moved the center point to the bottom of the frame, then manually focused on the dead tree.
Good Shooting 🙂